5WC

Ever since I was small aviation, and specifically hot air ballooning, has played a major part of my life. My father had a growing passion for ballooning before I was even born and so, when I arrived, I was already set to grow up surrounded by these magical flying machines. These colourful, gigantic creatures of the sky. As with a lot of people, my family got into ballooning by simply moving to a rural village where the recreation ground was used as a takeoff site. This often lead to the sight of balloons slowly lifting off, into glorious summer skies, off on their adventures, which would be followed by our family jumping in the car and giving chase, eager to share in their passions.

As time went by, the more we chased, the more we got to know the different balloons, the pilots, the crew and the more we started to become involved. My father became part of the ground crew (helping to inflate the balloon and following to retrieve the craft post flight) and then, as it should be, crewing lead to flights, flights lead to learning and learning lead to licence. My father checked out, his company bought a balloon and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course, growing up already captured by the wonders of hot air balloons, my passion didn’t need a helping hand, but my father being a pilot, and my family fully involved and with essentially our own balloon meant there was only ever one way my life and my obsession with light-than-air aviation would go. Everything I did was centred around ballooning. Birthday cakes, duvet covers, school projects all adorned with these magnificent machines. It may not surprise you to find out I have is an addictive personality. I grab hold of something and don’t easily let go and ballooning fell into my hands at a young age and has remained there to this day.

Thinking back, I can fondly remember busily sketching balloons like Stelrad, HRH and Schroder Life before they’d be blutak’d to the bedroom walls; but it was trips to the annual Icicle Meet saw me come face to face with the notion of a “special shape”. Balloons shaped like Jumbo Jet’s, Creme Egg’s and Choc Dips tubs filled my childhood with awe and created brand loyalties and sentimentality that will last a lifetime. But it was when Virgin Airship & Balloon Company turned my favourite computer character – Sonic – into a balloon, that everything in my life would take place after ballooning! Fate had been sealed, there was only one thing my life was ever going to be destined for: I was going to be a balloon pilot. I was going to fly special shapes.

Sadly though, life doesn’t work out quite as we planned and while that dream essentially has been completed. I am a balloon pilot. I even fly special shapes. I am not doing it professionally as the UK aerial marketing industry collapsed after the 2001 outbreak of Foot And Mouth and sadly, has never recovered. And however much I long for the “good old days” to return, like everything we look back on fondly, I think those times have passed.

Not all is lost though. While the childhood dreams of a life lived in the sky may have fallen through, I am still very lucky in that I happen to own, and fly privately, a number of balloons whenever the weather will allow. Since 2014, my father has been flying less and less and my battles with anorexia meant we made a conscious decision to downsize (if you like) with regards the amount of kit we owned. We may made some difficult decisions, selling balloons that sentimentally carried a lot of weight, and took a step away from the idea of commercial ballooning providing an income. Becoming a “private pilot”, accepting that, for now at least the dreams I lived with and longed for all my life had essentially died was hard to take. Ultimately though, the decision is the right one. Flying for fun a few times a year, when the skies are blue and the winds are light has allowed me to experiment with video making, to develop new skills, and to stop chasing an impossible dream and just enjoy the experience to being in the sky with friends. Whatever my future holds, I have once again remembered that I am still extremely lucky to be able to take to the skies in this most magical form of transportation.

Ballooning might have fundamentally changed it’s position and meaning in my life but I still have the memories of times past, and the chance to experience times to come. Please feel free to look through the pages below detailing the history of balloons I’ve owned past and present.

And of course, you can always read my blog for the latest stories and achieve reports of my ballooning exploits…